It’s 1984, I’m walking through Boston University, it’s not my campus, it’s Sunday, no one’s around, and I’m just exploring. It’s a vast place, the buildings are all empty, a man in a wheelchair is having a heated conversation with a security guard. The guard looks at me and I see something imploring in his regard. So I approach. He is embarrassed, the man in the wheelchair needs help, and the guard says he’s not allowed to aid him: rules apply.

The man in the wheelchair tries to explain but I can’t understand him, his speech is all garbled. His head tilted to the side, his body twisted in an unnatural position, he manages to communicate that he desperately needs to urinate and can’t do it on his own. I don’t answer, I don’t seem to be there, but someone inside me answers for me anyway, and hears that I agree to help him. I’m afraid, what’s going on?

There is serenity somewhere; it’s there, but I don’t understand.

His spastic hand pushes the little lever on his electric wheelchair, and we enter the nearest toilet block. He tells me to reach into the bag hanging behind him. I find a plastic hospital bottle. He tells me to undo his zip, and contorts his body, thrusting he pelvis upward with big heaves, straining against the braces holding his arms in place. The rest is obvious. I take his penis, place it in the bottle, and he relieves himself of all his urine. He is concentrating hard; this is quite an accomplishment for him. He tells me to tip the contents into the nearest toilet.

I’m calm. Very calm. It feels like the most natural thing in the world. Perhaps the first and only really natural thing I have ever done. I am helping myself go to the bathroom, to fulfil the simplest biological function that can become a nightmare if it is not done in union with another part of ‘me’. I must seek another one of ‘me’ in order to piss, or I’ll explode, simple as that. And ‘we’ urinate. The guard wouldn’t help me, he was afraid. I am incredibly happy this man was there. But both are a part of me.

The man in the wheelchair is over the moon, he is radiant; we complete the ritual in harmony together, putting the bottle back in the bag, zipping up his pants, making sure his penis is out of the way. He looks at me with shining eyes and asks if I am a hospital aid. I don’t know how to answer. I have never helped someone like this, but the person who helped him had done this many times before and was confident and completely relaxed. I smile and say no.

Now he is chatting with me as he wheels out of the toilet block and asks if I am a student at the campus. I say no. He asks if we shall see each other again, and I say I don’t think so. He doesn’t know what to say. He is happy and sad at the same time. We have met, Oneness meeting Itself, in Love. And that was enough. He thanks me, and I wonder seriously who he is thanking, because I certainly wasn’t there. I was just watching curiously as this body did things that seemed completely foreign and yet utterly natural at the same time.

I bump into the guard on my way to the car. He was grateful I could help the handicapped man, he is chagrined and tries to explain himself. The man in the wheelchair works at the university in Administration, he shouldn’t come here on a Sunday if he knows he has a problem, he should…

I listen and wait patiently till the guard has finished relieving himself. I smile with him; all is well in our miniature universe of three, dancing a trio on a strange planet full of Life and Sound and beloved Urine. I return to the car and there is an intense peace in everything: the creaky door of my battered old Chevrolet Chevette, the empty McDonalds soda cup on the seat, the acrid smell of the ancient seats.

And I feel love. For all of it. It’s all just so… present.

Bernard Groom